You may have heard people comment about public opinion and politics with statements like this: “The current government is much worse than the previous one.” “If all our leaders could be as good as this one, our country would have achieved greater things.” “Why is the price for healthcare and electricity going up?”
The above statements are just a few compared to all the ideas people have about public opinion and politics. This is especially the case with countries that operate on a democratic system of government, such as the U.S. And with the 2020 presidential election looming, the differences between public opinion and politics are gaining greater ground now than ever.
What is Public Opinion?
The way the majority of the people feel toward a particular subject is deemed public opinion. Public opinion on a matter also involves what the majority of people think and say about it. Additionally, public opinion is concerned with the wants, needs, and even the desires of a majority of the people in a given region.
So, simply put, public opinion is the collective or joint opinion of the people in a society or state concerning a given subject or issue.
How Public Opinion and Politics are Related
Public opinion is so closely intertwined with politics that it is impossible to separate them in a proper democratic government. Public opinion has a role to play in just about any system of governmental rule. The public opinion is the voice of the people. Public opinion is so important in a society that it cannot be ignored.
How exactly do public opinion and politics work? Well, the answer to this question can be found in a literary work by John Locke called “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.”
According to that essay, man is subject to three laws which are the divine laws, the civil laws, and finally the law of opinion (also known as the law of reputation). The law of opinion, in one way or another, indirectly affects the other laws. Take the divine laws for instance. These laws are in religious books. But as time goes on, public opinion would decide what law to follow to the letter, as well as what law needs to be amended or relaxed a little bit.
This power of public opinion is also applicable in politics. Most systems of government today (an example that of democracy) is a relatively social system. The ruling government gets to remain in power as long as they do not excessively violate the “social contract” between them and the citizens. If they do, public opinion turns against them and an impeachment or a coup d’état (in a military system) is no longer an impossibility.
So you see, public opinion and politics are an inseparable pair. Public opinion determines media content and governmental actions (to an extent).
How do you feel about public opinion and politics?